England ‘relish’ challenge of overturning France in Marseille wheelchair rematch

TOM COYD is excited by the challenge of turning the tables on the French after England lost to their rivals in Leeds.

Three weeks after France earned a measure of revenge for last year’s World Cup final defeat to England, the world’s two greatest wheelchair teams meet again, this time on the other side of the Channel in Marseille, on Saturday (November 25).

As well as levelling up what is effectively a two-match series, and reclaiming the Fassolette-Kielty Trophy, England have the chance to inflict only a second-ever defeat on France in their own backyard, after a 31-25 loss to the English in Apt in 2019.

“It’s a fantastic contest now, isn’t it? The favourites lost (the first tie),” said England head coach Coyd.

“We’ve got an opportunity to go over there and beat them on their home turf, which has only been done once before, by us as well. It’s a challenge we relish.”

Coyd wants to see England tidy up their game as they seek to right the wrongs of the 43-34 defeat at the First Direct Arena earlier this month, when France scored 30 successive first-half points to silence a crowd of over 2,000.

“It was one of the great days of everyone’s career, without a doubt,” he said of the occasion in Leeds, England’s first game since the World Cup.

“Full credit to the RFL and Rugby League Commercial for putting that on because it was beautiful.

“If we’d executed a few passes in the first half I think we could have gone in up at half-time. It really was that big a swing.

“Playing on this big stage, a lot of pressure comes with that. These guys aren’t necessarily used to that yet. 

“They really enjoy it, but there’s an added pressure that comes with playing at home in front of a home crowd that France wouldn’t have experienced.

“They were playing with quite free expression so they took advantage of that. We’ll have the benefit of that over in Marseille.”

But Laurent Dupuy, joint-coach of France alongside Sylvain Crismanovich, is keen to secure a second win.

“What happened in Leeds was certainly a great sporting spectacle and a very good match which ended in a victory for us against the new world champions,” he said.

“But, as in any confrontation, the hardest part is to continue winning ways and it is so important that we win the upcoming meeting again.”

The Palais Des Sports, Marseille, is the venue for the second clash between the close rivals and France have drafted in two new players to replace the unavailable Julien Penella and Arno Vargas.

Dupuy added: “Sylvain and I decided to trust the majority of the players who travelled to England but we had to bring in Nicolas Lemaitre of Montauban and Mostefa Abassi from St Jory.

“We need to raise our performance from the game in Leeds because we know England are hurting and they can do better.

“We mustn’t forget that they are the reigning world champions and we respect them.”